group mind V: connection to the audience

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Insight: For every ensemble, whether in rehearsal or in performance,  there is always present, their audience.

Always at issue in every rehearsal and every performance is the “for-whom.” In this, even in rehearsals the audience is implied. And within the ensemble each member is both performer and audience caught up in the moment.

The performer desires to share what they love. While the motivations can be simple or complex, each motivation points to what is at stake for the performer in the performance. To the extent that their sense of worth is at stake, the appreciation of an audience strengthens their sense of self worth (less so if their self worth was fragile in the first place.) To the extent that beauty is valued, awakening a love of beauty in the audience is paramount.

The one concern that unites all motivations is the desire to draw closer through a shared experience. What drives the musician to practice? To be true to what is awakened through music and to share that awakening with others. To tap and express what is at the shared core of our humanity. To remember that we are not alone.

All these concerns and more are present in the performance. Audience members come for an experience. Performers hone their art to share/evoke an experience. Success is measured by whether performers and audience connect. When this happens no audience is passive. They are engaged participants, witnesses and co-conspirators breathing the same air, vibrating to the same chord, at once being unique and one. This is group mind at its broadest and best.

Whether or not there is a public performance, the audience (the “for-whom”) also appears as each other, as the inner voice shared and individual, as the musical conscience witnessing, evaluating and comparing to the cherished ideal.

And yet there is a drive to share what is loved outside the confines of the rehearsal room. Believing that the beloved is of great value and being dedicated to its communication, the performers believe they have something to offer. And when the performance itself is transparent enough to allow the beloved to show through, the audience, if sufficiently open, experiences without hindrance the very thing that burns in the hearts of the musicians. Dare we say that every audience desires to experience directly what is on the hearts of the performers? And what joy is released when this happens? Such a triumph!

Perhaps the greatest fuel for this fire is the desire for connection. We all know at some level that the medium of spoken language leaves a great chasm between us. So much room for misunderstanding, motivated or not. Any language is limited in its scope of possible thought. Too often misunderstandings of each other and more amount to failures of language. We invent languages, like mathematics, or “dialects” like philosophical systems to open our understanding. And still there is so much more to see and grasp and feel.

What sort of language is music? What is it best at expressing? Perhaps we could call it a poetry of sound; engaging, evocative, emotional, bodily. Perhaps because it affects us most profoundly in a non-verbal way it is the best language for expressing our common humanity. It is multivalent (supporting multiple meanings and associations) like most experience and so is an apt vehicle for communicating experience by recreating it. Because it is multivalent and because it is capable of (re)creating experience for a large group at once, it gives us and reminds us of our common ground, satisfying our (shared) desire for connection.

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